Poster for the March Month of Boycott, 1960. During the month Boycott Movement supporters all over Britain picketed shops and distributed leaflets asking shoppers not to buy South African goods. The boycott was supported by the Labour and Liberal Parties and the TUC. It was launched at a 15,000-strong rally in Trafalgar Square on 28 February.
In 1961 Nelson Mandela went into hiding and then left South Africa secretly to meet leaders of independent African countries. He returned to South Africa in July 1962. Shortly afterwards he was arrested and charged with incitement to strike. The Anti-Apartheid Movement organised protests and messages of support. In this telegram he thanks the AAM and says his message is intended as ‘a very firm, warm and hearty handshake from us’.
Anti-apartheid protest against apartheid laws introduced by South Africa’s first National Party Prime Minister, D F Malan.
Trevor Huddleston speaking at the rally in Trafalgar Square to launch the March Month of Boycott Action. Right to left: ANC leader Tennyson Makiwane, Labour Party Leader Hugh Gaitskell and Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe. During the month, local councils all over Britain banned South African goods and supporters distributed leaflets to shoppers calling for a boycott. The month was organised by the Boycott Movement, set up in 1959.
On the tenth anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre the AAM staged a re-enactment in Trafalgar Square. Around 3,000 people watched as actors dressed as South African police took aim and people in the crowd fell to the ground. The event was organised by the AAM and the United Nations Students Association (UNSA).
Rally in Trafalgar Square calling for No Independence Before Majority Rule (NIBMAR) in Zimbabwe on 13 February 1972. Around 15,000 people marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to protest against the British government’s agreement with the Smith regime. Bishop Abel Muzorewa said the settlement was not acceptable to the majority in Rhodesia. Other speakers at the rally were the leader of the Clyde shipbuilders work-in Jimmy Reid, black activist Althea Jones and Labour MP Michael Foot.
In October 1975, South African troops mounted a full-scale invasion of Angola in an attempt to stop the MPLA forming a government. The AAM campaigned for the British government to put pressure on South Africa to withdraw. AAM supporters picketed a meeting addressed by South African Foreign Minister Hilgard Muller at Chatham House on 18 November 1975.
ANC President Oliver Tambo was the main speaker at a rally held in London to mark South Africa Freedom Day on 26 June 1981. He told AAM supporters ‘It is your struggle as it is ours’. Also on the platform were ANC representative Ruth Mompati, FRELIMO leader and future Mozambique President Armando Guebuza, SACTU General Secretary John Gaetsewe and SWAPO Deputy Secretary for Labour P Munyaro.
A north London community bookshop hosted a photo exhibition and collection box for the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in the summer of 1982. Left to right: ANC representative Ruth Mompati, Jim Corrigall of Haringey AA Group, local councillor Pat Tonge, Dave Palmer of Reading Matters bookshop and local councillor Ernie Large.
Four thousand people from nearly every parliamentary constituency in Britain lobbied Parliament on 27 February 1990 calling for a ‘fundamental change in British policy’ towards South Africa. The lobby was organised by the Southern Africa Coalition and was the biggest ever parliamentary lobby on Southern Africa.
Peter Brayshaw took part in protests against UDI in Rhodesia as a student in the mid-1960s. He joined the Committee for Freedom in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea and travelled to Angola soon after MPLA declared independence in 1975. On his return to Britain he campaigned for international recognition of the MPLA government and later became Chair of the Mozambique Angola Committee. He is currently Vice Chair of Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) and serves as a Labour Councillor in the London Borough of Camden.
This is a complete transcript of an interview carried out as part of the ‘Forward to Freedom’ history project in 2013.
Anti-apartheid protest by exiled South African students and their supporters.
Thousands of demonstrators marched through central London on 27 March 1960 to protest against the massacre of 69 unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville on 21 March. The march was organised by the Boycott Movement, together with the Movement for Colonial Freedom and the Committee of African Organisations. It was followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square, organised by the Labour Party. In the days following the shootings, there were scuffles with police outside South Africa House as crowds gathered to protest.
On the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to launch the March Month of Boycott Action in 1960. During the month, local councils all over Britain banned South African goods and supporters distributed leaflets to shoppers calling for a boycott. The month was organised by the Boycott Movement, set up in 1959.
In July 1973 Portuguese dictator Marcelo Caetano visited London to mark the 600th anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance. The AAM joined with other groups to oppose the visit. On 15 July over 12,000 demonstrators marched through central London calling for an end to British government support for the ‘unholy alliance’ of Portugal, South Africa and Rhodesia in Southern Africa. They included trade unionists and a delegation from the Black People’s Freedom Movement.
The crowd at a rally in Trafalgar Square to mark the tenth anniversary of UDI, held on 9 November 1975. Demonstrators called for an end to the execution of freedom fighters by the Smith regime. Speakers included Methodist minister David Haslam, Roger Lyons of the white collar union ASTMS and Peter Hain, speaking for the National League of Young Liberals.
Early in October 1975, South African troops mounted a full-scale invasion of Angola in an attempt to stop the MPLA forming a government. The AAM campaigned for the British government to put pressure on South Africa to withdraw. AAM supporters picketed a meeting addressed by South African Foreign Minister Hilgard Muller at Chatham House on 18 November 1975.
The AAM’s ‘Southern Africa: the Time to Choose’ conference, 11–13 March 1982, was its most ambitious initiative to date. The Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ekwueme, gave the keynote address and the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Parties and the Chair of the TUC International Committee were among the speakers from Britain. The liberation movements were represented by ANC General Secretary Alfred Nzo and SWAPO Chairman David Meroro. The conference was attended by church representatives, trade unionists, local authorities and women’s, youth and student organisations. Left to right: Dr Alex Ekwueme, Abdul Minty, Bob Hughes MP and Archbishop Trevor Huddleston.
The Greater London Council and the AAM held a press conference on 30 May 1984 to protest against the Conservative government’s invitation to South African President P W Botha to visit Britain. The GLC played a big role in the campaign against the visit, with national press ads, an anti-apartheid banner outside County Hall and an exhibition ‘Signs of Apartheid’ at the Royal Festival Hall. It sponsored a music festival in Jubilee Gardens after the march through London on 2 June. Left to right: Abdul Minty, Trevor Huddleston, GLC Labour Councillors Paul Boateng, Ken Livingstone, Bob Hughes and SDP-Liberal Alliance GLC Councillor Adrian Slade.